Bitterness and self-interest have become the ever-present undercurrents continually churning beneath the surface of public life. Politicians of some eminence are consumed in a needless point scoring exercise instead of engaging in a meaningful and potentially transformative dialogue about what ails our country and our society.
This toxicity permeates all layers of our society and expresses itself more on social media platforms where it breeds an incipient hostility that prevents any authentic conversation even on serious issues.
Much of the punditry that pollutes public discourse comes from folk who assume they have the right answers.
They are, thus, unable or unwilling to accept that others may have pieces of the answer and that we can craft a solution together. That is why we have to contend with so much intra-party hostility as well as inter-party hatred.
I choose, in this thought paper, to take the National Petroleum Fund (NPF) saga and the infinities of speculation arising from it, as my starting point in outlining this malady.
I must begin by acknowledging that we as leaders in our various stations and beliefs must be subjected to the most rigorous scrutiny in relation to all the positions we adopt and the propositions we advance and defend. I know I have been the subject of so much attention lately and I relish all of it.
The bulk of it is petty, mischievous and malicious. Most of it I simply ignore because it is of no value and consequence.
The scrutiny became most interesting when it focused on the stance I took in relation to the motion tabled by my good friend, Ndaba Gaolathe, on the NPF saga. The motion asked Parliament to request the President to institute a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the NPF and the manner in which its funds had been handled.
I maintained then and still do now that the motion was noble in its goals, but fatally flawed in its approach and execution.
There is absolutely no doubt that we need a comprehensive probe into the NPF. That, as a goal, is most noble.
It is on the nature and potency of the probe that we may differ.
Instead of a sober and calm dialogue on the critical issues raised by the NPF matter, many descended into corrosive populism.
We saw a broad array of interest groups; people with differing values, frameworks and levels of education enter the fray, as they should, but all being whipped up by winds of passion and emotion that blinded them to basic rules of democratic engagement.
It’s been a little while since the discussion took place in Parliament, and I can only hope that as scholars Yankelovich and Rosell posit in their “public learning curve” theory, public opinion has now matured on the issues and evolved from the poorly informed reactions that we saw to more thoughtful conclusions.
Let me engage directly an accusation that was levelled against me. It was suggested that my approach to the NPF saga meant I had benefitted from the NPF funds.
The suggestion is quite simply laughable at the level of fact and falls to be dismissed with contempt. But it raises a more profound question of principle. It calls for intense examination of each of the participants in this discussion to determine the extent, if any, of their culpability.
In order to be directly implicated in the NPF saga, one must occupy one or more of several available positions. One must be an employee, shareholder and/or director of any of the companies that form part of the NPF factual matrix.
I avoid, for the moment, any mention of those folk and companies that are the subject of a pending criminal case and others who are the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation.
I am fully aware of all the runners and riders in relation to the NPF matter. I deal here, en passant, with the fact that in the course of the criminal case, it was alleged that President Masisi benefitted from several sources in his campaign
It would appear, he received several million Pula through a number of operatives, many of whom are ready and willing to testify, should a serious investigation occur. He funded his “Camp Dubai” mainly from NPF money. It has also been suggested that President Masisi used at least three law firms to receive and disburse these funds.
President Masisi becomes, without any doubt, a criminal suspect.
While on the subject of receipt of funds for “Camp Dubai” I must indicate that President Masisi is alleged to also have received funds from Botswana Public officers Pension Fund (BPOPF) monies through the medium of Capital Management Botswana (CMB), which was entrusted with P450 million by BPOPF.
It is important here to highlight that CMB is owned 75% by Capital Management Africa (CMA) and one Rapula Okaile holds 25% of the shares of CMB.
The network also covers Fleming Asset Management (Fleming) in which CMA holds 75% shares while 25% was held by a known political figure.
I mention these facts not to cast aspersions on anybody save to accept that all political figures must submit to an honest and serious probe, the better to establish their honesty and integrity in relation to the issues they raise.
I differed on the motion and took the radical view that President Masisi was disqualified from appointing any Judicial Commission into the NPF saga because he was directly implicated in the embezzlement of funds from it.
The Commissions of Inquiry Act, under which he would appoint the Commission gave him wide powers to determine the terms of reference of the Commission, select and appoint the commissioners; he was entitled to decide if the Commission sat in public or in secret, and whether at the end its report would be made public, or for the President’s eyes only.
The President could also, at any stage during the Commission’s proceedings, dissolve the Commission and terminate its activities.
I took the view then, which I maintain to date, that those who advocated for a Judicial Commission of Inquiry appointed by President Masisi were, in my firm but respectful view, unrealistic in their approach and extravagant in their expectations.
I say this without any qualms at all, because in our self-righteous claims to uphold “values, integrity and justice” which are themselves highly contested concepts, we must seek and find our own virtue and virtuosity as leaders.
We must accept that we are frail, fallen and fallible human beings and must, instead of defending our assumptions re-examine all positions, including our own.
I developed my proposition on President Masisi in the motion of no confidence that I tabled on the occasion of the completion of his first 100 days in office.
I drew so much fire from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) as well as from some of my own folk in the opposition ranks. As I said in my address to the Rakops conference of the Botswana National Front (BNF), those twerking for President Masisi were highly offended by the motion of no confidence. They have now begun to label me a sympathizer of former President Ian Khama.
Their cumulative and connected misunderstandings cannot cloak and conceal the fact that as matters stand, in the political chess game that is playing out I am counting the moves towards calling a devastating check mate on the BDP and all who place blind and implicit faith in it.
I have said before and I say it again: let this regime charge Isaac Kgosi, so all their skeletons come tumbling down! I hold all the aces! The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is poised to shock its detractors in the most stunning fashion.
*Duma Boko is the leader of UDC